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Ancient history is filled with conflict and Roman history is no exception.  Daniel 7:8 pictures a battle of four horns with one horn emerging victorious.  But what does all that symbolism mean?  How are we to interpret this correctly?  Many end-time theologians tell us that these horns represent political rivals to some future world dictator.  The rivals will be eliminated and the world dictator will reign supreme.                  

Adventist theologians claim that the three losing horns represent three barbarian tribes (the Heruli, Vandals, and Ostrogoths) that challenged the Byzantine Empire.  The Byzantine army came to the rescue of the Roman Catholic Church and Catholicism was saved in 538. (There's a couple problems with this theory - the Heruli were eliminated by the Lombards and the Ostrogothic War lasted long after 538).                               

After spending numerous days researching this topic I have come to the conclusion that the Battle of the Horns represents a power struggle between four prominant Romans which over time led to the creation of an institution that persecuted more true believers than the Roman Empire ever did.  This power struggle occured not in the 500s but the 300s.                                

The early Christian church faced horrible persecution during the despotic reign of Emperor Diocletian (286-307).  But in-spite of all the persecution, the church continued to grow.  Christians took their faith in Christ serious and were willing to die for it.  Satan wanted a different plan to stop the Gospel.  Since persecution didn't work his next trick was deception.                                  

In the early 300s Constantine was an active Roman general who spent much of his time fighting the Franks on the empire's northern frontier  Constantine would later inherit the throne of the western empire when his father Constantinus died in 306.                    

In 310 an elder statesman of the western empire, Maximian, rebelled against Constantine. He and his army met with Constantine's army in what is today the French city of Lyon.                        

From the onset Maximian saw his situation as hopeless.  It wasn't so much Constantine's military might but the loyalty of the local people that gave Constantine an easy victory.  Maximian surrendered and  in July 310 hanged himself.                      

Maxentius, Maximian's son, wanted among other things to avenge his father's death.  He raised an army to challenge Constantine.                                

On October 28, 312 the two armies clashed in what is today the Italian city of Turin near the Milvian Bridge, a stone bridge that spans the Tiber River.  It was here that tradition says that Constantine saw a sign from Heaven promising him victory if he converted to Christianity.  Constantine accepted.                              

In one overwhelming charge Maxentius and his army were routed and sent into a hasty retreat.  In the chaos Maxentius lost his footing and slipped into the Tiber River where, because of his heavy armor, drownded.                 

The very next day Constantine and his army entered Rome to cheering crowds.  Maxentius' dead body was fished from the river and publicly desecrated.  Shortly thereafter the Edict of Milan was signed which granted religious freedom to all Roman citizens.                            

All was fairly quiet until 324 when Constantine's former friend Licinius started a civil war against the emperor.  The two armies clashed at the Battle of Adrianople where Constantine won handily.  Licinius regrouped his battered army and launched two more attacks at the Battles of Hellespont and Chysopolis.  Despite having a larger army, Licinius lost both battles.  He surrendered and eventually hanged himself.                             

By the end of 324 Constantine was the most beloved and most powerful figure in the entire Roman world.  Maximian, Maxentius, and Licinius were all sucessfully "up rooted".                                 

Since the Italian peninsula, especially the country-side around Rome was so ravaged by war, Constantine elected to move the capital from Rome to the eastern city of Byzantium.  The new capital was re-named Constantinople.  By late 324 Constantine was considered by his contemporaries as the Founding Father of the Byzantine Empire.                                  

Let us note that Constantine was the first emperor to legalize Christianity but there is some doubt as to whether he was a real born again Christian. Consider Constantine's Arch.  Built in 315 in Constantine's honor, this Arch is located in Rome just a short walk from the Colosseum.  It displays inscribed iconography from Constantine's reign.  The iconography features numerous pagan symbols and deities; yet not even one symbol of Christianity can be found.  This suggests that Constantine was more of a compromiser than a Christian.  At best he was the first emperor to end Christian persecution and according to tradition made a profession to Christ on his deathbed in 337.  At worst he was still a sun god worshipper, who had his eldest son and wife murdered in 326, and only made overtures to the Christians in order to gain their support. Did he ever receive real salvation?  God only knows.                                         

Now let's turn our attention to 1st Century Rome.  We know from the Bible that there was a church at Rome.  It was a large church but more importantly it was a spiritually strong church.  The Book of Romans is considered to be Paul's greatest work.  In his letter to the Romans, dated 57 AD, Paul remarked:                           

"...your faith is spoken throughout the whole   (Roman) world."  (1:8)                    

Why was the church at Rome so spiritually strong?  One big reason was because they faced intense persecution from the emperors who saw themselves as divine.  The emperor was not "king of the mountain" if he had to take second place to a Jewish carpenter.  Roman believers took their faith in the risen Christ seriously and were even willing to die for it if needed.  The more the Roman government persecuted, the closer the believers clung to their Lord.  As some were killed more took their places.  Clearly the Gospel was worth living and dying for.  Besides the hedonism and polytheism of the culture offered nothing of eternal value.  Only the regenerated life centered around the risen and living Christ gave people something eternal to live for.                             

As time went on bishops were elected to serve as church administrators.  Linus (2 Tim 4:21) and Clement I (Philippians 4:3) were two early bishops at Rome who were mentioned by name in the Bible. Since Paul mentioned that their names were in the Book of Life, we can know that both men were true  believers.                   

Yet Paul in his letter gave the Roman Christians an important warning.  Outward persecution was doing little to stop the church.  But Paul knew the enemy.  If he couldn't stop the church with persecution, he would ruin it with enemies from within - false bretheran.                

"...note those who cause divisions and offenses,  contrary to the doctrine which you have learned   and avoid them." (16:17)                   

Persecutions didn't ruin the church at Rome but apostacy did.  When the persecutions of Diocletian ended at the start of the 4th Century, lukewarmness began to set in.  Worse yet strange doctrines that had their roots  in Babylonianism such as eating a wafer god were starting to creep in.                                  

At some point in time the church at Rome became the Church of Rome.  What is interesting to note is that the seven churches mentioned in Revelation have long since faded away but the fate of the church at Rome was different.  Satan didn't want to obliterate  that church; he wanted to hijack it and turn it into a religious institution that would serve his wants.  The Bible calls this institution the seventh head of the seven headed beast.  We know it today as the Roman Catholic Church.                         

As time went on more strange doctrines were added: papal supremecy (401); the veneration of the Virgin Mother goddess (431); Purgatory (1435); and the legitamacy of the Apocrapha (1545).  From what I can surmise the early Roman Church eventually accepted the doctrine of the Nicolaitans - a doctrine which Jesus Himself said that He hated (Revelation 2:15).  From what I understand this doctrine states that church leaders are to rule over church members in all matters.  Put another way church leaders, not the Bible, are to be the final authority.  Satan finally got what he wanted: a counterfeit church that held strange doctrines; rituals; and empty religion not to mention a future bloodlust for so-called "heretics".

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